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This chapter examines the societal response to diverse environmental and social dynamics within deltas during the Anthropocene era and the challenges for future adaptation. It illustrates these dynamics through unique data on the diversity and success of the range of adaptive actions undertaken by contemporary populations as well as perceptions of environmental change. There is a lived reality and social distribution of vulnerability across dimensions such as gender, age and class: different groups have different capacities to adapt, incentives to adapt, and are included or excluded from strategies of adaptation. There are options and interventions for adaptation to environmental change that already being undertaken across deltas.
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9.1 Introduction
Deltas are shifting, subsiding, morphing environments endlessly adapting
to changes in sediment ows, water levels, storms, oods and sea-level rise,
both naturally and, increasingly, through human eort (e.g. Chapters 24).
Human activity and settlements within deltas and their watersheds
Adapting to Change: People
and Policies
Emma L. Tompkins, Katharine Vincent, Natalie Suckall,
Rezaur Rahman, Tuhin Ghosh, Adelina Mensah,
Kirk Anderson, Alexander Chapman, Giorgia Prati,
Craig W. Hutton, Sophie Day and Victoria Price
© e Author(s) 2020
R. J. Nicholls et al. (eds.), Deltas in the Anthropocene,
E. L. Tompkins (*) · N. Suckall · G. Prati · S. Day · V. Price
Geography and Environmental Science,
University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
K. Vincent
Kulima Integrated Development Solutions, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
R. Rahman
Institute of Water and Flood Management, Bangladesh University
of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka, Bangladesh
T. Ghosh
School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India
202 E. L. Tompkins et al.
contribute to the vulnerable environment within which deltas produce
food, support commerce and residents manage their lives and livelihoods.
Delivering secure places while improving ability to adapt and fostering
resilience is a huge challenge in rapidly changing delta landscapes in the
Deltas have been changed by human activity since early human
settlement. For example, human modications in the Ganges-
Brahmaputra-Meghna dating are documented for approximately
3000 years, and more recently with the founding of Dhaka in 1604
(Fergusson 1863). e Anthropocene is characterised by a great accel-
eration in trends of land use and other change. Dhaka for example, has
increased in population from around 220,000 in 1941 to 15 million in
2011 (RAJUK 2015). During this period the city has expanded with
land reclaimed and more low lying ood-prone areas have been settled.
e abundance of fertile land means that deltas are vital resources in
food production. However the context in which this takes place in the
Anthropocene is changing. As a result of population increase and demand
for land, land tends to be used more intensively. Large engineered inter-
ventions are common which can include upstream dams outside the delta
to generate hydropower on the Nile and Volta Rivers, and canalisation for
irrigation and transport as seen within the Mississippi and other deltas.
e Mekong Delta, for example, is central to the rice bowl of Southeast
A. Mensah
Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies, University of Ghana,
Legon-Accra, Ghana
K. Anderson
Regional Institute for Population Studies, University of Ghana,
Legon-Accra, Ghana
A. Chapman
School of Engineering, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
C. W. Hutton
GeoData Institute, Geography and Environmental Science,
University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
9 Adapting to Change: People and Policies 203
Asia and generates around 50% of Vietnams total rice output and
about 90% of its rice export (Ling et al. 2015). Other deltas, such as the
Mahanadi in India, have larger proportions involved in small scale and
subsistence farming, representing a signicant labour and livelihood for
extensive populations (Duncan et al. 2017).
Here, the building blocks of adaptation to environmental change
in deltas and prospects for the future are examined. e focus is on
decisions made by people, not just as individual agents but also in
the social context of households. Such decisions are constrained and
shaped by collective and policy-driven adaptation. is chapter con-
siders the lived reality and social distribution of vulnerability and
reviews evidence on where adaptation is occurring, who is undertaking
it, what forms it takes, and what types of adaptation are perceived to
be successful. An adaptation typology to organise forms of adaptation
is presented which considers the relationship between policy driven
adaptation and what households are doing within this adaptation
policy context. Adaptation policy has, on occasion, unforeseen nega-
tive consequences of adaptation policy and the chapter reects on the
future of adaptation, specically the relationship between latent and
active capacity to adapt, vulnerability and the existence of incentives
to adapt.
9.2 Vulnerability Affects People’s Ability
to Adapt in Deltas
People in deltas are, in many places, highly vulnerable to environmental
shocks and stresses. Many elements of this vulnerability are driven by
the natural geography of deltas, e.g. river ow and sedimentation, but
are amplied by more recent human interference with the delta systems.
is includes inappropriate or poorly maintained engineering inter-
ventions, such as dams, navigation, ood control works, but also from
demographic pressures and changes in land use. e combination of all
of these pressures leads to oods, subsidence, storm surges and a highly
variable living environment. Deltas also face upstream and externally
204 E. L. Tompkins et al.
driven stresses, such as sediment starvation from dams (Chapter 5),
price uctuations in key crops from global economic issues, and the
hazards associated with climate change (Nicholls et al. 2007).
In terms of current vulnerability, the role of sea-level rise remains
uncertain. Some argue that present day societal vulnerability is more
dependent on risks from river discharge and storm surges, rather than
longer term trend changes in sea level (Vermaat and Eleveld 2013).
Others argue that sea-level rise and climate change are dominant factors
shaping deltaic environments in the future (Szabo et al. 2016). ere is
no debate that climate change will have an impact on the vulnerability
of deltas. e questions to be asked are: is climate change already aect-
ing deltas, if not, when will it start to have an impact, and what can be
done about this now?
Levels of economic development play a key role in shaping present
day vulnerability (Tessler et al. 2015). Chapter 5, for example, shows
how shocks to the regional economies of deltas result in reductions in
labour demand, aggregate income levels, and ultimately undermine the
resilience of these areas. Deltas in wealthy countries, such as those of
the Mississippi and the Rhine, appear to be better placed to cope with
current stresses than those in poorer countries, due to levels of invest-
ment in protective infrastructure. e distribution of resources, and lev-
els of inequality and poverty, especially in the developing world, make
delta populations vulnerable and fragile in the context of environmen-
tal shocks. In the Yellow River Delta, China, for example, low levels of
education, below minimum wage and general lack awareness of global
climatic issues of its many deltaic residents, are considered important
factors that contribute to increasing their vulnerability (Wolters et al.
2016). As outlined in Chapter 7, delta areas are characterised by trends
towards ageing populations and signicant shifts in populations from
rural to urban areas (Szabo et al. 2016). At present some rural areas
continue to have labour surpluses, but are increasingly facing the impli-
cations of an ageing population with high dependency ratios with out-
uxes of working age adults to cities.
Even within deltas, experiences vary with the social factors that shape
vulnerability and adaptive capacity in deltas (see Chapter 6). Limited
9 Adapting to Change: People and Policies 205
access to resources, low decision-making power and social roles con-
strain women’s capacity to prepare, respond and adapt to climate
shocks and stresses (Pearse 2016). e adverse impacts of coastal ero-
sion on land and water have gendered eects linked to social responsi-
bilities and roles. Water salinisation and land loss can force women to
walk longer distances to collect water and graze livestock adding further
physical and time burden that ultimately aects their adaptive capac-
ity. However, it is worth noting that vulnerabilities are not homogenous
among women, but are determined by an interplay of social, economic
and cultural factors including age, class, caste and ethnicity (Kaijser and
Kronsell 2014). A case study in Odisha, shows that women from upper
castes are less vulnerable to cyclones than women from low-castes due
to better access to social networks, assets and resources (Ray-Bennett
2009). Age can also be a mitigating factor of vulnerability linked to
voice and decision-making in intra-households power dynamics.
Perceptions of risk aect vulnerability and are subjective, reecting
socio-cultural backgrounds. Perceptions inuence individual and collec-
tive preparedness, response and recovery to short term extreme weather
events, as well as people’s adaptive behaviours to long term change, such
as sea-level rise. Experiential and socio-cultural factors may explain sig-
nicantly more variance in climate risk perception than either cognitive
or socio-demographic characteristics (van der Linden 2015). Previous
experiences of loss and damage can also shape expectations about the
prevalence and severity of future events such that perception of risk
increases sharply after exposure to ooding (e.g. Botzen et al. 2009;
Kellens et al. 2012; Gallagher 2014) and makes people more willing to
make household level changes and be better prepared (Lawrence et al.
2014). Even within the same household, climate risk perception and
adaptive responses dier between genders for the same shock (Mishra
and Pede 2017). Individuals may change their perception of risk over
time either as the result of direct experience of one or more hazards or
based on new information acquired through trusted social networks or
other information sources (e.g. Magliocca and Walls 2018).
e challenge in deltas in poorer countries is to address the cyclical
and chronic changes in the deltaic environment, the frequent hazards,
206 E. L. Tompkins et al.
poverty and the need for economic development, alongside the increas-
ing ad hoc physical modications of canals, dykes and polders. For
example, in the Mahanadi Delta in India, repeated cycles of disasters
coupled with recurrent (and expensive) cultural activities, ineective
livelihood diversication, ineective formal institutional support and
limited access to land all combine to reduce individual and household
resilience to hazards (Duncan et al. 2017). e solutions used to address
past and present challenges could change the future for delta residents;
the following sections address the questions how might that happen?
What policies are used in deltas? And, what might future transforma-
tional adaptation policies for deltas look like?
9.3 Adaptation Policies and Incentives
in Deltas
Many elements of policies for adaptation to environmental risks in
deltas mirror planning and policymaking in other low lying coastal
areas: policy options are largely described within the broad concepts
of protect, accommodate or retreat (Bijlsma et al. 1996), also referred
to as armour, adapt or retreat. Deltas are also widely referred to as
poverty, climatic and development hotspots (de Souza et al. 2015).
Specic delta policies or strategies are largely sets of principles framed
around a broad geographical area. ey include the Dutch Delta
Programme, the 2016–2019 Mississippi Delta Region Development
Plan, the Niger Delta Master Plan, the Mekong Delta Plan, or the
Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (Seijger et al. 2017). However, there are
not comprehensive delta plans or processes for many of the world’s
most signicant and populous deltas (see Chapters 24, Mensah et al.
[2016] and Hazra et al. [2016]).
Policy choices for deltas have been inuenced by international coop-
eration and treaties such as the Sendai Framework for disaster risk
reduction agenda, UNFCCC climate change adaptation reporting
requirements, and the Sustainable Development Goals (Lwasa 2015). At
the subnational scale, adaptation policy appears to be largely focussed
on addressing disaster risk, yet there is only limited documentation
9 Adapting to Change: People and Policies 207
of the initiatives that are taking place e.g. managing coastal erosion
through creation of barriers, storm surge barriers, adaptation of housing
to ooding (Kates et al. 2012). Of all the adaptation policies in deltas,
these can be grouped into three main components: addressing pre-ex-
isting socio-economic vulnerability, reducing disaster risk and building
long term social-ecological resilience, see Fig. 9.1.
In many deltas, much of the current eort in adaptation policy is
focussed on reducing vulnerability. For example, Bangladesh formulated
the Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan 2009 (MoEF 2009) and
established a climate change trust fund in 2010 to fund implementation
(Ayers et al. 2014). e strategy and action plan proposed six areas of
activity namely: food security, social protection and health; comprehen-
sive disaster management; infrastructure; research and knowledge manage-
ment; mitigation and low carbon development; and capacity building and
institutional strengthening (Islam and Nursey-Bray 2017). Within these
areas, 44 programmes have been funded to date, and are categorised in
Fig. 9.2 to be distributed among three elements: vulnerability reduction,
disaster risk reduction and ecological resilience (Tompkins et al. 2018).
Fig. 9.1 Components of adaptation policy in deltas (Adapted from Tompkins
et al. [2018] under CC BY 4.0)
208 E. L. Tompkins et al.
Measures in the delta include construction/repair of embankments,
river bank protection, cyclone shelters, etc. e vulnerability reducing
measures include re-excavation of canals, improving drinking water
supply, raising homesteads, etc. Ecosystem based adaptations include
coastal mangrove plantation. Of the 231 measures considered, about
80% of the total investment has been made in food security and infra-
structure clusters. Very little investment has been made in research
and capacity building. Among various ministries in Bangladesh, the
Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Local Government and
Ministry of Environment and Forest received most funds. Local gov-
ernment institutions received much less funding compared to cen-
tral agencies, but performed better in targeting adaptation decits and
mainstreaming gender considerations (Vij et al. 2018).
Common adaptation policies and programmes that seek to
reduce vulnerability are typically incremental (Denton et al. 2014).
Fig. 9.2 Distribution of types of adaptations across the GBM Delta undertaken
by Bangladesh Climate Change Trust (BCCTF) during 2009–2017 (Data from:
Annual Reports since 2009 of Bangladesh Climate Change Trust, Ministry of
Environment and Forests, Dhaka. Adaptation types follow Tompkins et al. [2017])
9 Adapting to Change: People and Policies 209
Beyond the developing world, some policies seek to be more
transformational (Kates et al. 2012) by fundamentally changing
the nature of a system, or inducing radical change across systems.
Such transformations focus on the future and long term substantial
change, and may involve questioning the eectiveness of existing
systems (Lonsdale et al. 2015). Examples of transformational adap-
tation policy include: removal of existing hard protection and barri-
ers to tidal and riverine ow (e.g. riverine and tidal dike removal) in
the Mississippi Delta (Mississippi Department of Marine Resources
2011); reactivation of oodplains in the Rhine delta (ICPR 2015);
and restoring oodplains that remove embankments and return
agricultural polders to oodplains to increase oodwater retention
capacity in the Yangtze (Chen et al. 2014). Managed retreat of infra-
structure and people from the coastal Mekong (USAID 2014) repre-
sents a signicant transformation and demonstrates that such radical
plans often have signicant losers as well as winners. All of these pol-
icy choices reveal a dramatic shift away from current and historical
adaptation policy choices in the various deltas (Vincent 2017). It is
in this context that individual households, businesses and communi-
ties are adapting to shocks and stresses. e following sections con-
sider: how are people adapting and how is policy aecting adaptation
choices? What adaptations are considered eective and is there agree-
ment on the best way to adapt?
9.4 Adapting to Present Day Stresses
Despite a long history of adaptation to environmental change in del-
tas, little is known about the specics of this adaptation, for example,
who is adapting, how and why, and how this has changed over time.
However, given the ambition to undertake a global stocktake of adap-
tation by 2023 as mandated by the Paris Agreement to the UNFCCC,
documentation of such adaptation practice is urgently required
(Tompkins et al. 2018). At present, it is known that households and
individuals do not adapt in isolation from the national policy context,
but operate within it. Household choices are mediated by a number of
210 E. L. Tompkins et al.
factors, including non-government organisations (NGOs), international
advocacy groups, the private sector and the socio-cultural context.
Within the current research, drawing on multi-scale governance litera-
tures, a typology of the factors inuencing how policy and household
choices interact is identied (Fig. 9.3).
Adaptation policy can play a role in supporting adaptation. For exam-
ple, support to convert land to alternative livelihoods, such as horticul-
ture, or resourcing to support community-based cyclone preparedness
activity, can spur on households to undertake adaptive actions. However,
the extent to which policies achieve their intended goals is variable.
Cyclone shelters are installed to provide shelter during and after extreme
events, yet women and girls are often reluctant to stay in public shelters
where they may have to interact with men, to maintain honour and avoid
shame and harassment (Rashid and Michaud 2002; Juran and Trivedi
2015). Poverty can constrain household adaptation choice. For example,
government policy in India provides training for farmers on climate tol-
erant crop varieties to improve agricultural productivity in increasingly
saline or dry conditions. However, poor farmers may not have the time to
travel to training on new crop varieties, or have the buering capacity to
take the chance to change crops just in case of crop failure.
While many adaptation policies have been put in place, imperfect
implementation can also mean that the social consequences have not
always been even (Mimura et al. 2014). In Bangladesh, dykes and pol-
ders are essential to protect properties and agricultural elds from tidal
Fig. 9.3 National policy inuences adaptation choices by households, mediated
by social and environmental factors
9 Adapting to Change: People and Policies 211
ooding. Many of these polders are still awaiting rehabilitation follow-
ing severe cyclone damage in 2007 and 2009. is has prolonged com-
munity suering due to the continued threat of tidal ooding, income
insecurity, lack of freshwater supply and ongoing vulnerabilities due to
weak coastal embankments remain a concern long after those cyclones
(Sadik et al. 2018). In the Mekong a government programme of dyke
building has enabled multiple crops per year, encouraging commercial
production and leading to a reduction in small-scale farming and net
out-migration of people from the delta (Chapman et al. 2016). As high-
lighted in Chapter 7, government action is patchy: not all communities
that require relocation, or demand it, are necessarily included in plans
(Mortreux et al. 2018).
Adaptation policy choices can also lead to unexpected impacts,
where individuals have to adapt to the consequences of the adaptation.
In the Vietnamese Mekong Delta, the most profound recent eort has
been the creation of an extensive high dyke network, spanning thou-
sands of kilometres and encompassing the majority of the deltas rice
paddies. Much of the eort in creating this network occurred during
the late 1990s and early 2000s. rough household survey (Chapman
et al. 2016), creation of a system dynamics model (Chapman 2016)
and multi-criteria analysis (Chapman 2016), ndings suggest that
extending and heightening the Vietnamese Mekong Delta dyke net-
work is an eective adaptation against prevalence of extreme river ood
events. However, this nding is only true when greater weight is placed
on large-scale short-term food production and export, and the incomes
of wealthier (large land-owning) farmers. Should decision-makers take
a pro-poor approach, and place an equal or greater weighting on the
sustainability of the livelihoods of poorer farmers, and indeed the sus-
tainability of the delta system, the adaptation (the high dyke network)
generates a counterintuitive outcome, see Fig. 9.4.
Two key, linked trends in Fig. 9.4 lie at the heart of this counterin-
tuitive result. e rst is that under the adapted (high dyke) system,
rates of change over time in rice input eciencies (i.e. yield per tonne
of fertiliser) reverse direction. e loss of nutrient-rich sediment dep-
osition (in the unadapted system), historically brought by the now
excluded ood, degrades the quality of the soil and pushes farmers
212 E. L. Tompkins et al.
towards heavier fertiliser use. e second trend, a direct result of this,
is a reversal in the relative advantage of farm size (Fig. 9.4), from
favouring smaller operations (unadapted system), to favouring larger
operations (adapted systems). Small-scale operations of one hectare
or less tend to lack the resources to compete in a fertiliser-intensive
system, having previously benetted from the free provision of sedi-
ment-bound nutrients. Chapman et al. (2016) point to the importance
of recognising whose priorities count in evaluating the success of adap-
tation policy choices. ey acknowledge that the success of adaptations
is normative: there are winners and losers, and trade-os will always be
needed (see also Hutton et al. 2018).
A key issue raised in policy and science is the assessment of success
in adaptation. Under what conditions can adaptation be considered
a success? And how does success vary with social factors, such as gen-
der, age and caste? ere are various criteria by which adaptation can
be evaluated, for example eectiveness in terms of long-term sustain-
able development, cost-eciency of the action, equity of the distri-
bution of impacts or the legitimacy of the action (Adger et al. 2005).
Fig. 9.4 The distributional impacts of adaptation in rice farming systems in the
Vietnamese Mekong Delta (Adapted from Chapman et al. [2016] under CC BY 4.0)
9 Adapting to Change: People and Policies 213
Despite some work considering no-regrets adaptation and adaptations
that generate mitigation or developmental co-benets (see, for exam-
ple, Suckall et al. 2015), it is broadly agreed that there is little evidence
of such multiple wins and that most adaptations have negative conse-
quences for some (Ficklin et al. 2018). Indeed, there is growing recogni-
tion that no adaptations will generate universal benets, and there will
always be people who lose as a result of adaptation, either through pay-
ing for adaptation benets and not receiving them, being aected by
others’ adaptations, or even because an individual has no choice but to
adapt in a way that does not contribute to long-term sustainable devel-
opment. is is not necessarily a message that policymakers wish to
hear, however, it is a realistic appraisal of the impacts of adaptation pol-
icy. is leaves the question—how can inclusive adaptation strategies be
designed for deltas during the Anthropocene?
9.5 The Design of Inclusive Adaptation
Adaptation is a spatially and temporally dynamic process with accrued
benets potentially changing with geography, time and circumstances.
What might be considered an eective adaptation response in one place
at one time may, with time, become less or more eective with associated
consequences and potentially bringing into question the sustainability of
the adaptive response. An example is the Mekong Delta in Vietnam where
short-term benets of engineering interventions to increase rice produc-
tion from two annual crops to three are oset by the longer term impacts.
e impacts include: soil quality degradation associated with fertiliser use,
reduction in shery co-production and loss of ecosystem services from
the introduction of agricultural pest predators associated with ooding
(Chapman et al. 2016). In Bangladesh, there can be long term nancial
benets of enhanced horticulture production, in lieu of traditional rice
farming, but due to the highly variable year on year yields of horticulture
(which can create lean years), there is much lower uptake of this adapta-
tion by poorer socio-ecological groups on the delta (Hutton et al. 2018).
214 E. L. Tompkins et al.
Evidence from past adaptations in deltas reveals a spectrum of initia-
tives, from extensive investments in cyclone preparedness and recovery
in Bangladesh (Mallick and Rahman 2013), to dyke and polder building
in India, and construction of embankments in the United States. Other
signicant change has occurred in deltas as a result of social policy. For
example, the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
in India provides a social safety net for those who are below the pov-
erty line. ere is also evidence of attempts to redraw, what often tend
to be, entrenched patterns of competition and dominance in the alloca-
tion of water and management of river basins (Budds 2013). Adaptation
strategies are clearly not simply engineered solutions, nor are they simply
social policies, they are a complex web of policies that aect the various
components within deltas: land use, ecosystems, rural and urban devel-
opment, transport, disaster risk reduction, to name a few, see, for exam-
ple, Mensah et al. (2016), Hazra et al. (2016), and Dey et al. (2016).
Recent research has endeavoured to consider what future strategies in
deltas may look like (Suckall et al. 2015). Adaptation is not limited to
one sector, but needs to be considered in the light of the bigger pic-
ture. Policymakers are often lacking insights into how policy can aect
adaptation strategies, and the trade-os that need to be made to reect
normative goals (for example equitable poverty reduction, or emphasis
on national level economic growth). In turn, adaptation policy choices
are aected by the costs of adaptation and the extent to which policy
change, and political eort, is required.
Suckall et al. (2018) develop narratives of adaptation policy—
which comprise multiple policies in the areas of: addressing disaster
risk, reducing socio-economic vulnerability and managing landscapes
and ecological systems. Each adaptation policy direction requires dif-
ferent levels of investment, resourcing and policy support. Minimum
intervention brings together policy choices that could be explained
as focusing on low cost adaptation policies designed to achieve max-
imum impact. e focus here tends to on basic emergency response
to disasters. Capacity expansion encourages climate-proof economic
growth, requiring investment, but does not seek to make signif-
icant change to the current structure of the economy. Eciency
enhancement requires less investment than policy commitment, is an
9 Adapting to Change: People and Policies 215
ambitious strategy that promotes adaptation consistent with the most
ecient management and exploitation of the current system, look-
ing at ways of distributing labour, balancing livelihood choices and
best utilising ecosystem services to enhance livelihoods and wellbeing
under climate change. System restructuring requires the greatest level of
investment and policy commitment, and is based on pre-emptive fun-
damental change at every level in order to completely transform the
current social and ecological system, and change the social and physi-
cal functioning of the delta system. is argues that the system can be
restructured in one of three main ways—each with a dierent focus:
protection, accommodating change and retreating/moving away.
Each has a dierent end goal for the delta. Collectively these policy
directions oer insight to policymakers by envisioning what policy
direction opportunities there are for deltaic regions. Under a chang-
ing climate, with an inevitable reduction in sediment in deltas result-
ing from upstream damming and other land use modications (see
Chapter 6), it is known that the structure of deltas will substantially,
and potentially fundamentally, change further in the Anthropocene.
What are the implications of these dierent adaptation policy direc-
tions in this context? Chapter 10 considers how these dierent policy
directions can generate dierent outcomes for deltas, and it considers
explicitly the trade-os that need to be made to achieve policy goals.
9.6 Conclusions
Policies and planning will play a powerful role in creating the
human-dominated deltas of the Anthropocene. ere is good evidence
that active management of deltas can potentially generate sustainabil-
ity for deltas and their populations. Governments retain the autonomy
to identify their priorities for development of many deltas, and choose
adaptation policy directions that help to achieve these aims.
e emergence of delta management plans in many developed and
developing countries is a positive sign of proactive attempts to man-
age the complex interactions of natural environments and human sys-
tems in the Anthropocene. A key insight is that what deltas will look
216 E. L. Tompkins et al.
like in the future depends substantially on current policy directions and
choices. is is not a simple policy choice particularly due to gaps in
our information and understanding about what adaptations are most
successful over time, and across which population groups. e global
stocktake of adaptation mandated by the Paris Agreement of the
UNFCCC will provide insights into the prevalence and quality of adap-
tations, including in deltas, to understand who is gaining and who is
losing from alternative adaptation policy directions.
National governments with deltas within their boundaries, and
neighbouring countries in watersheds are facing major challenges in
managing deltas in a changing climate, not least with limited informa-
tion about directions and motivations for adaptation of diverse actors.
Key dilemmas for governments in delta adaptation policy directions are
to decide whose voice should be heard in developing plans, and what
trade-os they would consider to be unacceptable. In this way, planning
for an uncertain future can proceed on a sound basis.
Adger, W. N., Arnell, N. W., & Tompkins, E. L. (2005). Successful adaptation
to climate change across scales. Global Environmental Change, 15(2), 77–86.
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... In particular, income diversification is the core strategy of rural livelihoods. Diversification is sectoral, for example, from farm to non-farm activities, and a process of structural transformation of the rural economy (Mertz et al. 2009;Stark and Lucas 2011;Islam et al. 2014;Tompkins et al. 2020).). However, the common understanding of livelihood diversification refers to increasing the number of income-generating activities in any sector. ...
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Developing country deltas are important food producing areas and are home to large numbers of subsistence farmers. In particular, rice farmers dominate the populous deltas of South and South-East Asia and face frequent climate hazards which have short- and long-term impacts on rice production and livelihoods. The aim of this study is to identify and explain proximal and ultimate factors (land access, cultural practices, and institutional support) that affect rice farmer resilience; that is to explain why some farmers are more sensitive to climate shocks, why some farmers suffer long-term impacts from climate shocks, and what underlying 'ultimate' factors reproduce this vulnerability over time. We undertake this analysis using qualitative interviews and household survey data from two districts in the Mahanadi Delta, Odisha, India. We show that climate hazards cause rice production shocks that are problematic for farmers as rice is predominantly used for household consumption in a context of unreliable off-farm income sources and a lack of insurance and credit. Our research emphasizes that 'ultimate' drivers interact with the current mode of rice cultivation to reproduce a low resilience farming state. We argue that agricultural development interventions seeking to make rice farming more resilient to climate hazards should focus on boosting productivity and shock-resistance, but also be cognizant of the system within which rice farming is practiced and the contextual 'ultimate' factors that reproduce vulnerability.
Deltas are precarious environments experiencing significant biophysical, and socio-economic changes with the ebb and flow of seasons (including with floods and drought), with infrastructural developments (such as dikes and polders), with the movement of people, and as a result of climate and environmental variability and change. Decisions are being taken about the future of deltas and about the provision of adaptation investment to enable people and the environment to respond to the changing climate and related changes. The paper presents a framework to identify options for, and trade-offs between, long term adaptation strategies in deltas. Using a three step process, we: (1) identify current policy-led adaptations actions in deltas by conducting literature searches on current observable adaptations, potential transformational adaptations and government policy; (2) develop narratives of future adaptation policy directions that take into account investment cost of adaptation and the extent to which significant policy change/political effort is required; and (3) explore trade-offs that occur within each policy direction using a subjective weighting process developed during a collaborative expert workshop. We conclude that the process of developing policy directions for adaptation can assist policy makers in scoping the spectrum of options that exist, while enabling them to consider their own willingness to make significant policy changes within the delta and to initiate transformative change.
Purpose The purpose of this study is to first examine the factors affecting the intra-household perception of climate change. Second, the study investigates the impact of the perception of climatic stress on the operators’ and spouses’ intra-household adaptation strategies (farm and household financial strategies). Design/methodology/approach The study uses household survey data from Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. The study uses probit and negative binomial count data approaches to evaluate the empirical model. Findings Results confirm the existence of intra-household gender differences in the adaptation strategies. The authors found that although spouses perceive climatic stress, they are less likely to adapt to such stresses when it comes farming enterprise, but more likely to adapt to household financial strategies. In contrast, farm operators, in the presence of climatic stresses, undertake both farm and household finance adaptation strategies. Practical implications Investment in climate smart agriculture can help households in managing climatic stresses. Originality/value A farmer in Asia, and Vietnam in particular, faces significant risks from climatic changes. In Vietnam, agriculture is easily affected by natural disasters and climatic changes. This study provides insights into the perception of climatic changes by operators and spouses in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Perceived changes in the climate have a greater impact on women because they typically lack the necessary tools to adapt to climate change. The current findings could be useful in managing climatic risk in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and be helpful to policymakers in designing risk management strategies in response to climatic changes.